John Echohawk, the executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, addresses the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference at Mohegan Sun on the Mohegan Reservation in Connecticut on June 15, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
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Trump nominee for key appeals court seen as favorable to tribal interests





President Donald Trump is slowly filling open seats on courts across the nation and one of his picks has an important link to Indian Country.

On June 17, Trump nominated Allison H. Eid to serve on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The position is significant because the court hears a large number of cases affecting tribes in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

As a member of the Colorado Supreme Court, Eid doesn't have a huge record on tribal issues. But John Echohawk, the executive director of the Colorado-based Native American Rights Fund, compared her favorably to the person she would be replacing -- Neil Gorsuch, who now serves on the U.S. Supreme Court and whose Indian law rulings have been overwhelmingly positive.

“Her record on our issues is good as well,” EchoHawk, who is a citizen of the Pawnee Nation, told the National Congress of American Indians on Thursday.

But Trump's nominee has another connection to Indian Country. Eid's husband happens to be Troy Eid, a former federal prosecutor who has been a prominent advocate on sovereignty, protections for Native women, law enforcement and other tribal issues.

That kind of experience would be helpful for a judge on the 10th Circuit. The court is currently considering some major cases with national implications, including one affecting the homelands of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe.

Rafaela Sanchez, the Secretary for the Pueblo of Pojoaque, addresses the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference at Mohegan Sun on the Mohegan Reservation in Connecticut on June 15, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

In February, a three-judge panel of the court ruled that a portion of the Wind River Reservation, which the two tribes share, was diminished by an act of Congress in 1906. The tribes are now seeking Indian Country's support as they ask a larger group of judges to rehear the dispute.

“This case has serious ramifications not only for the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho Tribe but for Indian tribes across the country,” Eastern Shoshone Chairman Clinton Wagon told NCAI.

State governments are “always attacking tribal sovereignty,” Wagon added -- officials in Wyoming are the ones challenging tribal jurisdiction over a town known as Riverton. “As Indian tribes, we must come together and unite,” he said.

A second big case before the 10th Circuit also involves a clash between sovereigns. Leaders of Pojoaque Pueblo came to NCAI to seek support as they try to protect their gaming enterprise from increasing demands for revenues by the state of New Mexico.

In April, a three-judge panel ruled that the tribe could not rely on the federal government to intervene in the dispute. The tribe is now working with NCAI and the National Indian Gaming Association in seeking a rehearing in the case.